Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 8 March 2000
Page: 14201

Mr KATTER (6:10 PM) —I had some three hours of preparation to speak tonight and, unfortunately, the exigencies of the House prevented me from doing that. If I had had more time to consider the proposal put forward by the opposition, in all probability I would have crossed the floor tonight. I want that put on the public record. I am absolutely appalled at the way the issue of deregulation of this industry has been conducted. We have an industry that has provided growth from $430 million to $2,200 million in exports. One of the senior people in the Commonwealth Development Bank said that the only agricultural industry in Australia that was faring well was the milk industry. Even retail prices were stable. In fact, the New South Wales retail price before deregulation had only kept pace with the CPI. In Victoria they have kept pace with average weekly earnings. As far as the bill this evening goes, it facilitates the deregulation of this industry.

I belong to a very proud party that allowed, facilitated and ensured the ability of farmers to collectively market their product. They could stand toe to toe against the retailers. In this case, under deregulation, 13,500 farmers will face off against just two sellers: Woolworths and Coles. Minister Truss, I am deeply depressed about your speech. I thank the Prime Minister because, as I understand it, the Prime Minister's position was that if the states forced us to do it then we would do our best to help the dairy farmers. But your position was that taken by certain leaders in the milk industry, and that position was that if you did not do this then you would take away the $100,000 from your farmers.

Mr KATTER —You can say `disgraceful', but my farmers on Thursday of last week received a letter from their factory telling them that instead of getting 58.9c a litre they will get 41.5c a litre. I wonder how you would take a letter if you received it from the Speaker of this House telling you that you would get paid one-third less than you got previously. You think that I should stand up here and supinely rubber-stamp the demolition of those decent, hard-working Australians throughout this country. There is not one person in this House who is not well aware of the fact that some 15,000 to 16,000 Australian families will vanish partially as a result of what is occurring here at the present moment.

Mr KATTER —Let me answer your question. Every one of those reports that I have seen to date says that somewhere between 3,000 and 7,000 people will exit the industry. If they do not take two people with them, then I will walk from here to Bourke backwards.

Let me come back to the topic. It has been said that section 92 of the Constitution prevents the government of Australia—this government—from doing anything, and it prevents the state governments from doing anything. This is rather peculiar. We have a situation in this country where there is no sovereignty that resides with respect to marketing. In fairness, that probably was a proposition which was not unreasonable up to 1998. But I would have thought that some people would have had the energy to go down to the library, pick out the position paper which is section 92 after Cole v. Whitfield and read what the law says now on section 92. It can be argued that New South Wales is in breach of section 92 because Victorians are not allowed to buy quota in New South Wales. If in fact they are allowed to buy quota in New South Wales, then the regulations throughout Australia can stand and are not ultra vires section 92. I refer to Dr Kopar's book on section 92 of the Constitution.

The Victorians should be given DMS. That is not a position that is popular in my state and in my area but, quite frankly, I think there is a gap between what the Victorians are paid and the rest of Australia. I know the historical background to that, but there should be DMS payments, though they should be capped at where they are now. I plead with the minister. He will be remembered as the person who participated in the demolition of this industry. One of our own National Party members said that this would be the worst happening in agriculture in Australian history, and I do not think that is an exaggeration. It is not too late to turn this around. (Time expired)